“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice.”
~ Wayne Dyer
Dr. Wayne Dyer (1940 – 2015) was an American self-help author and motivational speaker. He published his first book “Your Erroneous Zones” in 1976 and since then it has sold over 35 million copies! Dyer, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, was a self-made man. He spent much of his childhood up to age ten in an orphanage after his father deserted the family. After serving four years in the US Navy, Dyer earned his Phd in Education and established himself as a professor at St. John’s University in New York City.
Dyer believed strongly in the term self-actualization – which has many definitions. As I understand it, the term refers to a person who has realized their full potential. They are pursuing work for which they are perfectly suited and, in effect, are doing what they love. Often, self-actualized individuals will find ways to give back to society. Clearly, there are many individuals who must take work they aren’t completely happy with in order to pay the bills. Dyer also taught self-reliance in his courses.
You cannot accuse Wayne Dyer of mincing words! He’s very direct and uncompromising in his first sentence where he lays out one life option very clearly. “Be miserable.” I don’t see any sympathy here for someone who is unhappy with their life. He is telling us that being miserable is a choice. Is he saying that someone chooses to be miserable? I think so. We are not in control of our circumstances a lot of the time, but we are always in control of our response to our life situation. How are we helping ourselves by being miserable? Do I really want to go through life inflicting my misery on others? There was a time during my teen years when I chose to wallow in self-pity for days at a time. It’s a great way to lose friends! So, I can choose to have a positive response, or to work to change my situation. It’s really up to me.
“Or motivate yourself.” Dyer drops the other shoe and presents another option. When I first read these words, I immediately thought of discussions I’ve had with fellow authors about finding inspiration. I can imagine Wayne Dyer listening in and rolling his eyes. He preaches self-reliance and this is quite evident in these three words of his. It’s nothing short of a challenge. I need to kick myself in the behind and get myself moving in whatever direction I see fit. I could spend a lifetime waiting around for someone to ignite me into action. Then what? Will I maintain that motivation myself? Not likely, if it doesn’t come from within.
Life is a gift, but it isn’t easy. I often think that people who choose to be unhappy are disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted from life. I’ll bet my last dollar that these same people sit around most of their days waiting for great things in their life to happen. Being self-motivated takes a lot of effort, and some just don’t have a good work ethic.
Dyer winds up this quote by exhorting us to make our choices and do what must be done. We don’t all have the same goals or dreams, and this is what makes us unique. So the particular choices we must make will differ; but we are the same in that we must be self-reliant in order to be successful – and to self-actualize. So many of us are such foolish beings! We look at each other and all we can see are the differences. But what of those differences? Are they really substantial? I would argue that our differences are inconsequential – as in physical characteristics or the church we go to or the God we worship. The substantial elements that make us all human are the things that unite us as one. And Dyer is talking to us, in this quote, about an aspect of ourselves that is very substantial – even crucial!
I have spoken about choices before in this forum, and I’m sure I’ll do so again. Wayne Dyer spent a good deal of his adult life challenging us to make those hard choices – the ones that require a lot of courage. Don’t misread his message in the quote above. He speaks of self-reliance, not isolation. Dyer himself expended untold hours and tremendous energy helping others, and as he did so, he was self-actualizing. He was doing what he was best suited to do in life, and he loved it. The really good news here is that all of us are just as capable of living fulfilled lives. We just have to reach within, find the courage, and do what is necessary. No more… no less.